Being a Better Writer: Building Politics for Your Setting

Hello readers! Welcome back to another episode of Being a Better Writer! There’s no weekend news (or rather any you didn’t already know past Episode 10 of Fireteam Freelance dropping), so we’re just going to dive right into things and get down to it!

Last week, if you’ll recall, we talked about politics in writing and how the “keep politics out of fiction” movement is based an erroneous idea of what politics actually are (or “is” in the case of writing). If you’ve not read that post, I do recommend reading it before starting today’s post, as if someone heads into this one without a grasp on what “politics” actually means is likely going to find themselves confused and annoyed. So here’s the link to Politics and Writing. Once you’ve given that a read, you’ll be set with the foreknowledge for today’s post.

Those of you that are already caught up, good on you, and let’s dive in!

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Being a Better Writer: Politics and Writing

Welcome back readers! No news this week, we’re just diving right in! I felt that with the United States celebrating Independence Day this last weekend, today’s post topic felt timely. Though it wasn’t inspired by current events. This topic has been on the list for several months, inspired by a combination of commentary on various book and writing locales online as well as some very public statements by a gaming company on the nature of politics and stories (statements I disagreed with, personally).

So then, with no further ado, let’s jump in and talk about politics and writing. This is going to be a rather involved post, and as well, I suspect, somewhat controversial, because as of late culturally the idea of talking about politics has become fairly divisive in and of itself. Or to put it bluntly: Many seem to only think politics should be spoken about as long as what’s being said supports their position (no matter what it is) with as little friction as possible.

Which is kind of a genesis of sorts for this post. See, today we’re not going to talk about how to write political intrigue in our stories, nor how to write a book that focuses on politics and governmental drama. Not at all (besides, you approach that like any other topic: lots of research). No today we’re discussing the idea of having “politics” be something in a story at all.

You may have heard this statement before from someone in person or online, or at least a statement akin to it: “I don’t like politics in my story. There’s no need for them. [Creator] can just make a story without politics in it.”

Yeah, this is a popular phrase being parroted around these days. If you haven’t heard it, count yourself lucky, because any following discussion devolves into madness, usually quite quickly. However, this commonality of this statement does raise a legitimate question: are they right?

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A Brief Post Concerning the State of Things in the US

Those of you who are in the US most likely know what I’m talking about today. Those of you outside the US have most likely picked up tidbits, given the amount of non-US news crews covering everything (and finding themselves assaulted for it), so I don’t need to rehash the events surrounding the death of George Floyd or the subsequent protests and then riots sweeping across the US here. If you somehow haven’t gathered much on what happened (another cop killing someone on camera in cold blood with no repercussions) … well that parenthetical is likely all you need to decipher, along with a decent imagination of “Well, how would people react to that?”

Now, I’m not going to go into a lot of depth on this today. Be aware that that depth does exist. If you wish to find records of police brutality, videos of Australian news crews being clubbed with batons, or old men beat up by police until they’re lying bleeding on the pavement for the “crime” of trying to get to their home or waiting for a bus.

So what am I going to say on this? A few things.

First, the murder of George Floyd was wrong. As is any of the racial profiling that still sticks with a lot of people in the US. I think I’ve made it pretty clear over the course of seven books that I think judging someone based on the color of their skin is an utterly asinine practice that no one should engage in. Positive or negative (yes, it’s just as bad to assume someone is “good” because of a skin color as it is to assume something bad about them).

People. Are. People. We’re all human beings on this little rock we call Earth. Blue, green, purple, whatever. Judging someone based on the color of their skin is wrong.

You want to make a judgement on someone, do it by something that matters, like the content of their character.

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Why You Should Read … The War on Normal People

Yes, I realize this is somewhat of a weird post. After all, Jungle came out just two weeks ago. If anything, I should be pushing you to read that.

And, well, I still am. Today’s post doesn’t really take away from that. The title I’m recommending today, for instance, is non-fiction. As opposed to Jungle, which is fiction. It does, however, discuss some issues that Jungle explores and even addresses, elements that were underlying themes even in Colony.

But before we get too into that, what is Why You Should Read …? Pretty simple, actually. It’s a recommendation post. Something I’ve always been a big proponent of, both on this site and in person, is that people should read more. Read as much as possible. It’s a vital part of being a good writer yourself, exposing yourself to other ideas and approaches. Even outside of writing, it’s good for the mind to introduce yourself to new concepts, ideas, or perspectives that you may not have thought about.

So, with offering that mindset I also have to live it, and one thing I enjoy doing a lot of when I’m not working is reading. Usually Sci-Fi or Fantasy (you can learn from those too) or the occasional non-fiction book when I get curious about something. Occasionally, I’ll come across a book that I think is worth recommending for one reason or another, and so I’ll bring it up and do one of these posts on it.

Now, before we move on, I want to make something clear: I get nothing out of recommending this book. No compensation, no ad revenue, no under-the-table wads of dollar bills or public/private recognition. I found this book, read it, and decided there was something in it worth gaining that made it worth recommending. I don’t get any compensation from talking about this book.

The only exception being if you, as a wanderer of the web, wend your way over to my books page and buy one of my own titles. But that’s one of my own books, and not in any way affiliated with the title I’ll be discussing today. If you grab one of those, you’re just grabbing one of those. If you go out of your way to pick up a copy of The War on Normal people, I don’t see a penny, because that’s not the point of these posts. There’s no compensation anywhere for me talking about why you should read it.

That said, I’ve talked enough about what this post is. How about we dive right in and talk about why I believe you should read The War on Normal People, by Andrew Yang.

Oh, and no worries about spoilers. This isn’t the type of book to have a spoiler warning.

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Being a Better Writer: Politics

Oh dear, what have I done? Why did I ever even write this topic down? What was I thinking? And then I picked it?

Actually, it’s not that bad. Some of you readers may have had similar reactions to seeing this topic, considering what it could discuss … and let’s be honest, that is a topic I could discuss, and likely will at another time.

Just not today. No, today’s topic of politics isn’t going to be involved with the real-world, thankfully (because that’s a mess). No, instead I want to talk about the politics in your book. No, not those “social politics” of the theme and whatnot. Not that at all. That’s the other topic, the one most of us dread because it’s so overblown these days.

No, I want to talk about the political sphere of your story. The politics in your story, that the characters are part of. Not the reader.

Now, because I’ve seen this topic broached before at conventions, writing classes, and the like, I can imagine what the average response is to this topic. Either a confused expression (fairly common) or a deadpan,  bored look coupled with the thought “Well, my book doesn’t involve politics or anything like that, so I’m just going to zone out” (which is equally common, in my experience). But … you’re wrong. If you’re thinking that right now, you’re wrong. And here’s why.

Almost every story, no matter the subject, will involve politics of some kind. In some way, from some angle. Politics will be there.

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